5-HTP For Mood

5-HTP For Mood

5-HTP For Mood

Everybody gets the blues every now and then. It’s a part of life. In our fast-paced world, sometimes our emotions are like roller coasters: up and down, up and down.

This is, of course, perfectly normal. However, some people have extreme, long-lasting bouts of severe depression, which isn’t normal. If you’re experiencing severe depression, then you should see a mental-health professional.

But if you’re looking for something to give you a nice mood boost, you’re in the right place. I’m talking about 5-HTP. Maybe you’ve already heard of it. It’s used by thousands of people around the world to help improve mood and to get restful sleep.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the science behind 5-HTP, dosage, potential side effects, and more. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what 5-HTP is.

What Is 5-HTP?

5-HTP (sometimes known as oxitriptan) is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan. Don’t worry: from now on we’ll just call it 5-HTP. This naturally occurring substance is created in the body from the amino acid L-tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in a variety of foods including eggs, meat, cheese, fish, soybeans, and some types of seeds.

5-HTP is a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. In other words, the body uses 5-HTP to make serotonin, just like it uses tryptophan to make 5-HTP. Serotonin plays an essential role in mood, appetite, sleep, cognition, learning, and memory, and also has a number of other functions throughout the body.

Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and plenty of other problems. By supplementing with 5-HTP, you can increase your body’s natural serotonin production. It is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and has been shown to have an antidepressant effect, which we’ll get to in the next section.

5-HTP is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States, Canada, and in the United Kingdom for use as an antidepressant, sleep aid, and appetite suppressant. It is commonly extracted from the seeds of tropical plant Griffonia simplicifolia. In some European countries, 5-HTP is used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and is only available with a prescription.

Now that we’ve gone over what 5-HTP is, let’s look at some of its reported nootropic benefits and the science to backup those claims.

As mentioned above, serotonin plays a role in mood, sleep, cognition, and more. If your serotonin levels aren’t optimal, your productivity may suffer because of it. Many people have reported that they’ve noticed a nootropic effect from supplementing with 5-HTP. Here are some of the benefits of 5-HTP that users have reported:

  • Improved mood
  • Better appetite control
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced stress
  • More-restful sleep
  • Increased feelings of well-being
  • Overall cognitive improvement

Improved mood

A meta-analysis (a statistical review of several studies) from 2002 looked at 108 different trials evaluating 5-HTP’s effectiveness at treating depression. Unfortunately, of those 108 studies only 2 of them met the rigorous scientific standards needed to be included in the meta-analysis. However, the 2 studies that were analyzed had promising results. They showed that 5-HTP was more effective than placebo at reducing the symptoms of depression.

Depressed dog

A 2013 study compared the effectiveness of 5-HTP and fluoxetine (Prozac) in patients experiencing their first major-depressive episode. Fluoxetine has been shown to be superior to placebo in the treatment of major-depressive disorder. The results of this study showed that 5-HTP was just as effective as fluoxetine at treating depression. Both treatments started working within 2 weeks.

A 2016 review published in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences looked at the effectiveness of 5-HTP when combined with prescription antidepressants on treatment-resistant depression. The results of this review showed that 5-HTP, when combined with a SSRI or MAOI (two different classes of antidepressants), was more effective than either type of antidepressant alone.

As you can see, there is a bit of evidence to show that 5-HTP can be effective at treating depression, either by itself or when combined with prescription antidepressants. However, more high-quality research is needed to fully understand 5-HTP’s antidepressant effect.

Unfortunately, no studies have looked at 5-HTP’s nootropic effect in healthy (non-depressed) people. Many users report that it improves their mood and has a nootropic effect, but there currently isn’t any science to support these claims. Hopefully, the scientific community will explore this in the future.

Improved sleep quality

Another 5-HTP benefit that users often report is improved sleep quality. Given 5-HTP’s mechanism of action, this isn’t surprising. The body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, which can later be converted into melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone known to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and is also a popular dietary supplement.

It’s no secret that sleep quality plays a huge role in mood, memory, and cognition. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, simply getting more high-quality rest can have a nootropic effect. But does 5-HTP improve sleep quality? Many users say it does. Now let’s see what the science has to say about it.

Woman sleeping

Unfortunately, there haven’t been any good-quality (healthy) human studies done on 5-HTP’s effect on sleep quality. However, the results of animal studies are promising. A 2018 study looked at the sleep-promoting effects of 5-HTP and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid, another amino acid and neurotransmitter) in mice, rats, and fruit flies. The researchers found that the combination of these two substances improved both sleep quality and quantity.

While no studies have been done exploring 5-HTP’s effect on sleep in healthy humans, there is some literature on its effect in people with various disorders. A case study from 1981 published in The Lancet (a highly respected science journal) discussed 5-HTP being used to treat post-traumatic insomnia in a woman who’d suffered a serious head injury. While commonly used prescription hypnotics didn’t help her insomnia, 5-HTP supplementation did. These results were supported with EEG (electroencephalogram) recordings.

Lastly, a study published in 2004 looked at the effect 5-HTP had on children with sleep terrors. After one month of treatment, 93.5% of the children in the 5-HTP group showed improvement while only 28.6% of the non-treated children did. After six months, 83.9% of the children treated with 5-HTP were sleep-terror free, while 71.4% of the children in the non-treated comparison group continued to have sleep terrors.

While this research is certainly encouraging, clinical trials done on healthy human volunteers need to be conducted before it can conclusively be stated that 5-HTP has a beneficial effect on sleep. However, there are numerous anecdotal reports around the internet of people successfully using 5-HTP to treat insomnia and improve sleep quality.

Reduced anxiety and stress

The last nootropic benefit of 5-HTP we’ll discuss is anxiety and stress reduction. Many users find that 5-HTP makes them feel more relaxed. Let’s take a look at the science.

5-HTP For Mood 2

A 2011 study looked at the effect 5-HTP had on anxiety in rats. The rats were given Griffonia simplicifolia seed extract, which contains high amounts of 5-HTP. The researchers administered a number of tests on the rats and found that the extract has an anxiety-like effect.

A study published in 2002 looked at the effect 5-HTP had on carbon-dioxide-induced panic (anxiety). 24 healthy volunteers and 24 panic-disorder patients received either 5-HTP or a placebo. The panic-disorder patients who were given 5-HTP showed a significantly reduced reaction to the panic challenge.

A somewhat-similar double-blind study from 2004 looked at the effect 5-HTP had on chemically-induced panic attacks in healthy volunteers. The results showed that women given 5-HTP had significantly lower panic rates, while men did not. However, both men and women given 5-HTP showed lower intensity of panic symptoms.

More research is needed to conclusively state that 5-HTP reduces anxiety. However, the research above shows that 5-HTP can help certain types of anxiety and that its effects may be different for men and women.

Overall, the research that has been done is encouraging. While 5-HTP’s nootropic benefits have not been studied directly, all the research that has been conducted points in the direction that it may have a nootropic effect for some people.

5-HTP Side Effects

Most people who supplement with 5-HTP do not experience any side effects. However, sometimes side effects can occur. They are generally mild and can include headache, drowsiness, upset stomach, and heartburn. Some of these side effects may be reduced or eliminated by taking 5-HTP with food.

5-HTP Dosage

When used as a nootropic, 5-HTP usually does not work immediately. It has to be taken daily for several weeks before an improvement in mood or a reduction in anxiety is usually noticeable. However, it may improve sleep quality sooner.

Some people find that 5-HTP makes them sleepy. For this reason, it’s often taken at night before bed. 5-HTP can be taken with or without food. Some people find that it causes upset stomach. Taking 5-HTP with food often eliminates this side effect.

The recommended starting dosage for 5-HTP is 100 milligrams (mg) once a day. Some users report a nootropic effect after a couple of weeks at that dosage. However, a higher dosage may be needed. Dosages of 300-500 mg a day are often used to experience the nootropic benefits of 5-HTP.3 The full dosage can be taken all at once (usually at night) or in 2-3 divided doses.

While a lot of people experience nootropic benefits from taking 5-HTP alone, it may work better when taken with a decarboxylase inhibitor like EGCG, a substance found in green tea. This allows more 5-HTP to convert into serotonin.


5-HTP is a popular supplement used to improve mood and sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and for several other reasons. It’s very safe for most people and seems to be effective in certain populations. While more high-quality human studies are needed to fully understand 5-HTP’s nootropic benefits, the research that has been done is extremely encouraging.

A lot of nootropic users like to stack 5-HTP with other substances. To learn more about some of these, check out this article: The Best Nootropics For Mood.

To learn more about nootropics, sign up for the Nootropics Zone newsletter. You’ll get the free gift, The Ultimate Nootropics Quick Reference Guide.Your email


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If you are taking prescription antidepressants, you should not take 5-HTP until you have talked to your doctor. Combining certain antidepressants with 5-HTP could potentially cause a dangerous interaction resulting in serotonin syndrome. As you know, low serotonin levels are associated with depression and anxiety. But abnormally high serotonin levels can be even more dangerous. Serotonin syndrome is a serious condition that happens when you have too much serotonin in your brain. It is extremely unlikely to occur by mixing antidepressants with 5-HTP at recommended dosages, but it’s theoretically possible (no cases of this have been reported). For this reason, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting 5-HTP if you are on any psychiatric medications, especially a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), or any other type of antidepressant.

Now, let’s dive into the science behind some of these claims to see if 5-HTP can have a nootropic effect. We’ll start with its effect on mood.

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